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History of Medicine in America, Ⅰ

History of Medicine in America

Ⅰ: A Battle of Ideas

Two Worlds of Thought Clash, Yet Ultimately Come Full Circle and Return To Their Roots

You’ve all heard the quote from Winston Churchill:

“Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”

Churchill’s wisdom conveys not just the importance of learning from history, but the urgent need to do so.

It is cautionary and caring advice that seems to promise any person or nation for that matter, that if they take the time to learn from the past, they will be better equipped to avoid common pitfalls and problems that human beings seem to frequently encounter.

Yet, perhaps the most important insight that this quote reveals is not about the need for preparation or learning, but rather what it reveals about human beings. 

More specifically, the cyclical nature of human behavior. Apparently, human beings have a pattern of action. This pattern of action is in itself is known as “human nature”.

The famous philosopher, historian, and archaeologist, R.G. Collingwood, wrote on the subject:

“History is for human self-knowledge … the only clue to what man can do is what man has done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is.”

Perhaps even more revealing and poignant regarding human nature is a quote from Abraham Lincoln (in the context of The American Civil War of 1861 to 1865):

“Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this (the Civil War), we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us therefore study the incidents in this as philosophy to learn wisdom from and none of them as wrongs to be avenged.”

History’s value as it stands alone is in its ability to teach us all wisdom. Wisdom about ourselves in who we are as human beings, as a society, as a nation and even as individuals.

The History of Medicine & You

How then, could each of you reading this article right now, benefit by learning from our nation’s past in the context of the history of medicine?

What could the history of medicine in America reveal about human nature that may then help each of you reading this article make a better and more informed decision today, as it pertains to your health and personal growth through healing?

Have you ever wondered how our nation got to where it is today, especially in regards to the practice of medicine? I have to tell you, it’s a really interesting story.

It may be taken for granted that the current ideas and beliefs of medicine held by our society at large, have always been held and valued by our society from the beginning.

Yet, when we look back at the early setting of medicine in America, just several decades after our nation’s historic inception, we discover something quite interesting. We see that there has always been a war of ideas on our understanding of the human body, on healing, on medicine, and in our approach to these very subjects.

These ideas infer that one type of medicine is more superior, scientific and advanced than the other. These ideas attempt to convey that one perspective is inherently better over another. These ideas, by there very definition, label one group as an adjunct, or perhaps even, as an assistant if you will, to the other.

Perhaps some of you may think that this current conflict of ideas is a new one that has just begun. Maybe some of you believe that Alternative Medicine (as a whole) introduces conflicting healing theories that challenges the solid grip of medical knowledge that has been established over the past 100 years. This can easily stir the pot of thought on what is believed to be the correct approach in treating a pattern of disease—creating more options—and yet at the same time confusing the average person. Many people wonder “what is the right path?”

Though, this is not the case at all. When we look through the lens of history, we learn that this battle is in fact a very old one—a battle that has been on-going since the birth of our great nation. This battle has been waged throughout the decades of time and continues today. It is a battle of opposing ideas; a battle for the minds of the American public. Ultimately, it is a battle of one idea—the freedom of the individual to decide for themselves how they want to approach their own health and healing.

Today, we will be looking at pivotal events of the early 1800s to the early 1900s that have rippled throughout time to shape our modern culture. These events have forever changed America, making a great impact on current public opinion. Still yet, these ripples have an even greater impact on the most personal of decisions of every American—their individual health.

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